There was a collective sense of calm as pediatric nurses, physicians, housekeeping and other critical staff entered the new stress-relief space on the Chase Child Life Terrace of UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. While members of the music-therapy team played soft harmonies in the background, staff were able, if but for a few moments, to hit pause and process the difficult experiences of these past weeks in unity.
“Let’s do this together,” said Irene Johnson, a pediatric chaplain with UCLA Health’s Spiritual Care Department, who helped organize the event.
The strain that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on staff can generate anxiety and fear among even the toughest health care veterans. To help alleviate some of that stress, the Chase Child Life and Spiritual Care teams created the relief station for staff to enjoy a few quiet moments to breathe fresh air, have their identification badges disinfected and connect with colleagues over snacks and self-care products donated from grateful patients.
“We wanted to create a centering experience for our frontline workers,” Johnson said. “So many of our providers are worried about the virus, and we wanted to remind them that they are safe, and they are protected.”
Frontline workers could take a “labyrinth walk” to help process their thoughts. As they moved along the path, outlined in chalk, they were greeted with words of encouragement such as hope, love and peace written on the floor of the terrace.
“Our terrace typically is reserved for our pediatric patients who are medically fragile,” said Alisha Hollingworth, one of the Child Life Specialists who helped to organize the space. “But we saw an opportunity to open it up to our staff and demonstrate small acts of appreciation. We wanted to let our care partners know we are here for them.”
Once staff completed the walk, they were asked to answer a special question: What gives you hope?
More than a hundred staff participated, writing their answers on post-it notes that are pasted to the windows of the Child Life room. While many shared that their families, friends and patients give them hope, two answers were most often repeated: kindness and my colleagues.
“How beautiful it was to see that our UCLA Health staff have a shared joy and hope for each other,” Johnson said. “We have oneness in the desire for kindness, and that is the fire that keeps all of us going.”
The Chase Child Life Program and Spiritual Care hope to continue the restorative practice once a week for all pediatric staff.